By Bob Uphues
Architects hired by the Brookfield Public Library Board of Trustees on Nov. 14 revealed a tentative timeline on how to proceed with the design and construction of a new building at 3541 Park Ave., saying that construction could begin in early 2020.
With more than $5 million set aside in a special reserve fund, a $1 million gift and assurances from the First National Bank of Brookfield of a loan up to $3.5 million, library officials soon will set in motion the approval process for the new 21,000-square-foot library.
On Dec. 3, the recently formed library foundation will host an invitation-only capital campaign kickoff event at the Brookfield Zoo and will follow that up on Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. with a capital campaign kickoff event open to the public at the library, 3609 Grand Blvd.
Dec. 4 also will mark the start of the schematic design phase by Product Architecture and Design, the firm hired by the library board to spearhead the project. Library officials and architects also are slated to meet that day with Brookfield Village Manager Timothy Wiberg.
Initial meetings with the village were described by architect Dan Pohrte as "nothing but positive."
Architects suggested that the library begin navigating the village's planned unit development process on Feb. 1, 2019. That process, which could take several months, will include preliminary and final public hearings before the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission and final signoff by the village board.
Assuming approval of the plans, architects proposed starting to put together construction documents by May 1 and seeking bids for the work at the beginning of October of next year.
Library trustees on Nov. 14 also got their first look at conceptual floor plans for the new library, which reveal the new building to be somewhat bow-tie shaped – slightly pinched in the middle and flaring out on either end.
The decision to move away from a simple rectangle was driven, said Pohrte, by the need for more space for gathering spaces, study areas and the library's collection on the north and south ends of each floor of the new building.
Designs unveiled on Nov. 14 also show the second floor to be slightly larger than the ground floor, creating overhangs above the entrance area, large areas of glass along the west façade and the northwest corner of the building.
The circulation desk and offices are shown on the main floor, along with a large Youth Services area and Storytime Room. One change from initial conceptual designs shows that entry to the library will be at grade level instead of at the top of a flight of stairs. That decision resulted from a combination of accessibility and design concerns on a tight building site.
The second floor houses Adult Services and its collection along with five quiet study rooms of various sizes, individual work stations, computer tables.
The second floor will also serve young adults, with a gathering room for teens near the department desk and an adjacent maker space.
On the lower level is a meeting room capable of seating more than 100 people and readily divided to accommodate more than one activity at a time. Library staff offices are also located in the lower level.
Library officials were also given an initial look at possible choices for exterior materials, ranging from metal panels to limestone to brick to copper-colored fins. Depending on materials chosen, the most recent cost estimates put the new library at between $10.5 and $10.8 million, which is higher than the $10 million price tag officials had been shooting for.
However, Pohrte said architects can massage the design to help reduce costs without going cheap on materials or interior furnishings.
"We feel like we're close enough on all of [the materials] that if you say, 'We really want to see this,' maybe something else has to give, and let's all just understand that's just part of design," Pohrte said. "Don't give up and say let's do this because it's cheap. This building is going to be here forever, so let's do it right."